Thursday, April 2, 2020

Get Out! The Think-Outside-the House Column

by Peggy Robin

The "Get Out!" events column got turned into the Stay In! Activities column last week....and this week it’s gone full circle and is back to “Get Out” again. Here’s a top ten list of things you can do outside – keeping a minimum six foot distance from all others – while you are out and about. The list is arranged David-Letterman-Show-style from the tenth up to the first:

10. Make music outside. You don’t need to be Yo-yo Ma to give a concert. Can you play the guitar? The banjo? The ukelele? Hum through a kazoo? Anything will do (well, maybe not the bagpipes!) You can perform spontaneously or coordinate your music with your neighbors. You may have seen how whole neighborhoods enjoyed making music together some evenings during quarantine in cities throughout Italy. See:  or

9. Go fly a kite. Wait for a windy day. Find an empty field. Get – or make – an easy-to-fly kite. Athletic fields of closed schools may be available. If not, there are open meadows and fields. For some do-it-yourself kite crafting, see:, which claims to have easy-to-build kites that fly well. I can't vouch for either claim, but these are pretty -- so at the very least, you'll have a nice art object, even if it doesn't get off the ground.

8. Go on a Bear Hunt! You’ve seen the messages on the listserv about the Great Cleveland Park Bear Hunt, haven’t you? Last time I checked the database, there were 139 locations with bears or other animals, each waiting to be found in the own native habitat. You can use the GoogleMap doc as your walking guide. P.S. You don't need to have a little kid with you on the hunt, but it helps!

7. Go on an architecture walk. The preceding activity works best when you're pushing a stroller or holding the hand of companion under the age of nine. For a more adult activity (but fine for teens and tweens, if they have any interest in history and design) – take a walk to spot the many fine examples of famous architects that we have in Cleveland Park (including Waldron Faulkner, I.M. Pei, Waddy Wood,-- or look for the characteristics of distinctive housing styles (Victorian, Craftsman Bungalow, Queen Anne, Tudor Revival, and a dozen others). Or you could go looking for some specific whimsical elements on houses, like the cat on the roof of a house on Newark St, or the many houses that feature "rope dipped in plaster" decorations around doors or on gables, or find an "eyebrow window." Learn some architecture terms before you go, and you can give yourself a guided tour. Or use the Cleveland Park History Self Guided Tour available at this link.

6. Get moving in an unusual way. Got roller blades? A pogo stick? Can you walk on stilts? Ride a unicycle? If there's an unusual way you're able to get around -- extra points if you can juggle at the same time -- you’ll be the star of the neighborhood ... at a safe distance. Or maybe you (or your kids) could do some cartwheels across the lawn. Even if you can’t do any tricks, you can put a bounce in your step as you take your walk. I recommend a walk with the dance moves that Dorothy and her pals used as they traveled down the Yellow Brick Road. It’s fun but so simple that anyone can do it. Take a look and see how it’s done:

5. Grill time. Take your kitchen outdoors. You don’t need a high-tech appliance with all kinds of bells and whistles. A small metal hibachi ($19.99 at Walmart) is fine for a simple outdoor barbecue. Almost every sort of food can be grilled – burgers, hot dogs, chicken, things on skewers -- and will be better for it. Marinate ahead of time and add even more flavor. Cooking outdoors over a real flame has some deep-down appeal that stirs our paleolithic souls. And you can always have s’mores for dessert! Find 49 easy grill ideas here: (and yes, you may need all 49 of them, if this thing goes on for as long as we think it will).

4. Decorate outside like it’s Christmas. You put away your holiday lights in January, but in times like these, why not put them back up? Twinkling lights would be very cheery right now, and we could all use more cheer. Add some seasonally appropriate springtime decorations too – like a flower wreath on the door. You can learn to make one here: For some creative light-string use, take a look at:

3. Become a delivery person. Tired of walking around with no particular place to go? You need a purpose to your outings! Volunteer with Cleveland and Woodley Park Village or Northwest Neighbors Village and they will send you out to help people who need you! Deliver food and drugstore supplies for your neighbors – that can be your super power! Find out more at : or

2. Make a photo journal for posterity. You will never look back fondly on these days but you may want to document them all the same. Go out and record the empty, eerie carlessness of Connecticut Avenue at what is supposed to be rush hour. Capture the sunset over the Cathedral. Call your family members around the country or around the world and have them send you selfies so you will have a record of what everyone was doing, wherever they happened to be on one chosen day, at an appointed time. Or walk around with a camera and wait for something to surprise you. Walk around with a camera and you never know what you will find. The photo record you make could become a treasure for future generations.

And now the number one suggestion for an outside activity that anyone of any age can enjoy – and it will bring a smile to others, too:

1. Sidewalk Art. Use colorful chalk to draw a sunny scene and leave an encouraging note. Anyone can draw a big, shining sun and write the lyrics, "The Sun’ll Come Out Tomorrow." How about chalking a short thank you note to doctors, nurses and health care workers? Add a bouquet of flowers. or a single rose. Or go abstract, with wavy lines or jazzy shapes. It won't be hard to create something that will brighten the day of other passers-by. Need more ideas? There's an 84-picture slideshow at
84-slideshow and some even better examples here: Think you're pretty good? Here are some phenomenal masters of the chalk who will show you what can be done. Take a look!

Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life is Local on Thursdays.

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